Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ignatius to the Romans - I'm done with this world

This is a continuation of my series on Ignatius and the seven letters he wrote while on his way to be martyred in Rome. If you are unfamiliar with Ignatius, you may want to start with the introduction to this series.

Ignatius praises the Roman believers for their faith and strength and ask them for their prayers for himself.
"Ye have never envied any one; ye have taught others. Now I desire that those things may be confirmed [by your conduct], which in your instructions ye enjoin [on others]. Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will; and that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really be found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. 'For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.' For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 3)
He asks for inward strength that he would continue to have the will to continue on his path towards martyrdom. He also asks for outward strength that he might confess the good confession before those who would yet try and sentence him to death. He reminds them that Christianity is not just a religion of beliefs but also one of action. It matters little what we call ourselves if our actions deny our words. In the end, we will be remembered for what we have done more than for what we thought and believed.

Ignatius understands his end and is willing to accept it. Only the believers in Rome can stand between him and his calling in God. He again pleads that they would refrain from doing so.
"I write to the Churches, and impress on them all, that I shall willingly die for God, unless ye hinder me. I beseech of you not to show an unseasonable good-will towards me. Suffer me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may be no trouble to any one." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 4)
In his heart, Ignatius has already left this earth, he has already resigned from this life. Now, he looks longingly towards the new life to come.
"Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body. Entreat Christ for me, that by these instruments I may be found a sacrifice [to God]. I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man: they were free, while I am, even until now, a servant. But when I suffer, I shall be the freed-man of Jesus, and shall rise again emancipated in Him. And now, being a prisoner, I learn not to desire anything worldly or vain." (Ignatius to the Romans, Chapter 4)
When we have the things of this world it is hard to appreciate the blessings of our life to come, but when we are prisoners of this world's system and subject to the suffering of this world, then the world to come shines brighter in our eyes and our longing for it grows and grows. Ignatius was being called home by his Lord and he was willing and anxious to leave this place for his heavenly home; he was done with this world, he was ready for real life to begin.

David Robison

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